India-Pakistan: China And The Quiet Invasion

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September 6, 2013: Chinese violations of the LAC (Line of Actual Control) border with India continues. Most of the recent Chinese intrusions are in the northwest and have, in effect, taken control of 640 square kilometers of territory on the Indian side of the border. There are three separate areas where Chinese troops have made these incursions. In response, India announced it is expanding its network of border bases along the 3,488 kilometer Tibet frontier. Currently there are 150 of these small, fortified bases. Most (98) of these outposts will be enlarged and improved, while 35 new ones will be built over the next 4 years. Negotiations to settle the dispute are stalled.

The LAC is also known as the MacCartney-MacDonald Line and is the unofficial border between India and China. The LAC is 4,057 kilometers long and is mostly Tibet on the Chinese side. China claims a lot of  territory that is now considered part of India because when Tibet was independent in the early 20th century, Tibet agreed to the MacCartney-MacDonald Line. When China reconquered Tibet in the 1950s, that border agreement was renounced as “unfair”. China has never backed away from its claims on Indian territory and its violation of the LAC is a major crises for India (which has a defense budget one third that of China’s).

The Chinese believe that the Indians are militarily weaker and not willing to confront a gradual and persistent Chinese effort to take control of the contested area. Sometimes this attitudes shows up in the Chinese media. Over the last week Chinese state controlled media has been mocking the capabilities of the Indian Navy, using the August 14th explosion that sank a Russian built Indian Kilo class sub while docked near Mumbai as an example. The 16 year old submarine had recently returned from Russia after an $80 million refurbishment. 18 sailors were killed as the sub sank at dockside. The Chinese media also criticized the earlier launching of India’s first Indian built aircraft carrier as essentially foreign made because the vessel used French blueprints, Russian aircraft, and American engines. This harsh commentary ignored that fact that China has had similar problems with its warships in the recent past and that Chinese built warships use a lot of foreign technology (usually stolen). This public disparagement angered many Indians, and in response, India has cancelled the visit of a senior air force general, in response to a Chinese invitation last month.

India is alarmed at growing Chinese and Pakistani investment in neighboring Sri Lanka. Chinese firms are more experienced and effective at arranging these foreign investments and India’s smaller neighbor feels more comfortable with investment from distant China rather than neighbor (and sometimes big bully) India. The Chinese economic investments often have military implications, like China building satellite ground stations in Sri Lanka. There is also growing Sri Lankan military cooperation with China and Pakistan.

As a good will gesture, both nations meanwhile agreed to hold joint counter-terrorism drills in November. This would be the third time this has been done, although it hasn’t happened for the past five years because of the growing Chinese aggressiveness along the LAC. These counter-terrorism drills only involve 150 special operations troops from either country and are mostly for show.

Rural eastern India continues to suffer from a low-level war with Maoist rebels. These armed leftists have been involved in incidents that have left over 200 dead so far this year. For the last few years the Indian national police have been using a special force of nearly 100,000 para-military troops and civilians to destroy the Maoist organization (which has about 11,000 armed followers and 3 times as many unarmed supporters).

Both India and Pakistan share many cultural aspects, and one of them is widespread corruption. Not surprisingly, both nations share a widespread distaste for all this corruption. For that reason, many Pakistanis are watching with great interest the current anti-corruption movement in India. While many Indian and Pakistani leaders are content to exploit the corruption rather than seeking to eliminate it, this is changing in India. That gives hope to Pakistanis, because their leaders have displayed no real enthusiasm for actually doing something about corruption. In India a growing number of leaders are actually joining the anti-corruption drive. There is still a lot of resistance from Indian political leaders, in part because the anti-corruption movement seeks to punish senior people who are formally charged with corruption. In Pakistan such charges rarely do any damage to senior people who are prosecuted. The Indian anti-corruption effort is making progress against this sort of thing and that gives Pakistanis hope.

Recent revelations from stolen NSA documents detailed a secret effort by Pakistan to assassinate suspected terrorists without benefit of capture and trial. This sort of thing is no secret in Pakistan, where the campaign has been particularly active against Baluchi tribal rebels and separatists in southwest Pakistan. What was particularly shocking was revelations about a proposed scheme to kill a prominent reformer and critic (lawyer Asma Jahangir) and to do the deed while Jahangir was visiting India and blame it on India. Jahangir had long been a critic of ISI (Pakistani intelligence and long a supporter of various terrorist groups) but the plan was never carried out. The U.S. has long urged Pakistan to curb this ISI activity, but the ISI has resisted such moves and only helped the U.S. to hunt down and kill, via UAVs, Pakistani terrorists who were hostile to Pakistan.

Pakistani politicians have agreed to back the army denial of Pakistani responsibility for the growing number of border incidents (Pakistani troops firing on Indians). Pakistani generals have always publically insisted that this violence is all the fault of the Indians. The military needs continued military and diplomatic tension with India to justify all its economic and political privileges and to discourage the politicians from prosecuting serving and retired officers for past crimes. This time around the Pakistani politicians have again refused to deal with the problem, despite the growing evidence that Pakistan soldiers have been instigating these attacks. India is dismayed at this lack of backbone by elected Pakistani officials.

The Pakistani generals believe that, since Pakistan got nukes in 1999, it can torment the Indians with these unprovoked border attacks without fear of escalating retaliation turning into a major war. Indian diplomats are reminding their Pakistani counterparts that nukes are not an absolute guarantee that the border incidents and continued Pakistani army and ISI support for Islamic terrorists working to attack inside India won’t lead to a nuclear exchange. India would be badly hurt, but Pakistan would be destroyed. Pakistani diplomats dismiss these threats and continue to officially support the Pakistani military line that this is all the fault of India. By Indian count Pakistan has violated the border 65 times this year, which was nearly twice as often as last year. Since 2009, when Pakistan began regularly breaking the 2003 ceasefire, India has counted over 250 ceasefire violations. In the last three years 26 Indian soldiers have died in these attacks, 9 this year, and 5 of them in one attack on August 6th. Indian public opinion is increasingly hostile towards Pakistan and demanding something be done. These border violations are a continuing impediment to negotiating a peace treaty with India, something many Indians and Pakistanis want but that the Pakistani military very much opposes.

The increased Pakistani Army violence on the Kashmir border has been accompanied by an increase in separatist and terrorist violence inside Kashmir. After several years of declines, this year has seen an increase in such violence, all apparently with the encouragement and support of Pakistan. India has responded with more curfews and increased patrols.

Despite considerable political resistance, Pakistan is sending thousands of soldiers into Karachi to help local police deal with the rapidly growing political, religious, and gangster violence there. Last year the murder rate in Karachi was 15 per 100,000 people a year, which is very high for areas outside the tribal territories. This year it’s running at the rate of 18. The Karachi police can’t cope, so in go the troops. For comparison purposes, the murder rate for all of Pakistan is 7.8, while it’s 3.5 in India, and 2.4 in Afghanistan. In the Western hemisphere it’s about 8 while in Europe it is about 3-4. Middle Eastern nations have rates of between 5 and 10. The United States rate is about 6 per 100,000, which is what it is in New York City, which has eight million people. There are other parts of the world that are more violent. Iraq has a murder rate in the 20s. That's not a lot higher than it was under Saddam (10-20 a year) but less than a third of what it was several years ago. In Africa, especially Congo, Sudan, and South Africa, you find similar murder rates. Only South Africa has a sufficiently effective government to actually keep accurate track of the murder rate, mostly from crime, but it's over 50 per 100,000. It's worse in places like Congo and Sudan, but the numbers there are only estimates by peacekeepers and relief workers. In southern Thailand a terror campaign by Islamic radicals has caused a death rate of over 80 per 100,000. Historians have been able to find similar patterns of deadly violence in Medieval Europe (in those places where large quantities of church records, that track births and deaths, survived). Karachi is Pakistan's largest city, with eight percent of the nation's population (14 million people) and producer of a quarter of the GDP. Islamic radicals have long been present in the city. The Taliban have established a presence among the two million Pushtuns in Karachi. A lot of the violence is the result of the Taliban trying to prevent the police from stopping the Pushtun radicals establishing save havens in Karachi. Police are hampered by the many gangs and religious terrorists who work for politicians (to influence elections and intimidate opponents) and thus have some immunity from police interference. But in the last few years the growing violence has created a popular revulsion to the presence of so many criminal organizations, many of them operating quite openly. Because of the extended political debate over bringing in troops, many gangs have hidden their weapons and sent their most notorious members into hiding. The troops are only going to be in Karachi temporarily, and once they are gone the gangs will get back to business.

September 5, 2013: In northwest Pakistan (Bannu) a bomb went off outside a girls school, wounding 14 (most of them children). The Taliban often bombs non-religious schools but usually at night. The Taliban is particularly opposed to educating girls.

In northern Pakistan police arrested a man they accused of planning the June 22 attack that killed nine foreign mountain climbers. The arrested man was also accused of ordering the killing of three police officials investigating the attack.

September 4, 2013: Truck traffic to Afghanistan for NATO supplies resumed after a five month halt because of constant attacks on the trucks. The halt was costing Pakistani firms millions of dollars in lost fees.

In Kashmir Indian soldiers received a tip about some Islamic terrorists and managed to capture an Islamic terrorist leader (Talib Lali) and two of his followers. Lali was the longest surviving (15 years) Islamic terrorist in Kashmir and had long been sought by police. Weapons and documents were also seized.

September 3, 2013: Pakistan accused India of opening fire on Pakistani troops across the LoC (Line of Control) in Kashmir. Pakistan said they returned fire and that there were no casualties.

Pakistan has sent Mirage 5 and F-7 (MiG-21) jet fighters to China to participate in 18 days of joint training with Chinese Air Force aircraft. This is the second time this has happened, the last such exercise took place 2 years ago.

September 2, 2013: A Pakistani court charged former president (and retired head of the Pakistani military) Pervez Musharraf for the death of a radical Pakistani cleric in 2007. The radical cleric Abdul Rashid Ghaz was killed, along with a hundred of his followers, when the army attacked a mosque in the capital, which had become a base for more and more radical activity in the capital.

September 1, 2013: In the Pakistani tribal territories (North Waziristan) a roadside bomb killed nine soldiers. The Pakistani military has long resisted American calls for an offensive into North Waziristan and an end to the terrorist sanctuary that area has become. Pakistan has long attempted to negotiate a treaty with the Pakistani Taliban that has its headquarters in North Waziristan, but the Taliban recently repeated its refusal to negotiate, especially since Pakistan insists that the Taliban disarm before talks begin. The Taliban said it would not talk because it did not recognize the legitimacy of the Pakistani government and would continue its effort to turn Pakistan into a religious dictatorship under Taliban guidance. That sort of thing is popular with few Pakistanis. The government insists that some Taliban officials are willing to negotiate, but the main Taliban spokesman denies this. One sign of progress is the Pakistani military admitting that the Pakistani Taliban and similar groups are the main threat to Pakistan. For decades before that, the Pakistani military insisted that India was the main threat.

August 31, 2013: Bowing to Chinese pressure, Pakistan has agreed to share intelligence on terrorist with China and take more effective action against Pakistani terrorists who attack Chinese citizens in Pakistan. China was able to force the issue with threats to halt economic investments in Pakistan if something was not done about the terrorism. One of the more important projects for China is an $18 billion effort to build a road from Pakistan’s Indian Ocean port of Gwadar into northwest China. This will require drilling long tunnels through the Himalayan Mountains on the border (in Pakistani controlled Kashmir). China does not want to make this kind of commitment without some Pakistani assurances that the terrorism problem is dealt with.

In Kashmir Indian soldiers killed five Islamic terrorists on the LoC as the intruders crossed from Pakistan at night.

In the Pakistani capital police seized a car rigged with 130 kg (286 pounds) of explosives.

August 30, 2013: Pakistan agreed to join China in opposing any military intervention in Syria. This has become more likely after Syria made a large scale use of nerve gas against Syrian civilians in Damascus on the 21st. While this pleases Iran, it angers the Sunni Arab Gulf oil states (led by Saudi Arabia) that are locked in an increasingly violent confrontation with Iran. Pakistan is over 75 percent Sunni but most of the rest are Shia.

In Kashmir Indian soldiers killed five Islamic terrorists. The troops received a tip about where the terrorists were hiding.

August 29, 2013: In eastern India (Chhattisgarh state) police clashed with a group of Maoist rebels and killed one while several other fled, leaving behind several weapons and some ammo.

August 28, 2013: Now India has a problem with Burma because of a border dispute. In the last week Indian soldiers found Burmese troops setting up a base five kilometers inside India. The Burmese insisted this was actually their territory. Only after days of negotiations, and some threats, did the Burmese agree to withdraw. The Burmese are upset because India is building a border fence to help curb illegal migrants and smugglers.

August 27, 2013: In the Pakistani tribal territories (South Waziristan) four Taliban attacked an army base. All four attackers were killed, one when he detonated an explosive vest. Two soldiers were killed and nine wounded.

In Indian Kashmir Islamic terrorists ambushed a police vehicle killing a policeman and his driver. On the Pakistani border Pakistani troops fired across the LoC for the 18th day in a row.

In eastern India (Odisha state) a Maoist roadside bomb left five policemen dead and two wounded.

August 25, 2013: In northwest Pakistan (Khyber) police seized 12 tons of explosives, 9 bombs, and other weapons. Pakistan accused India of firing mortar shells from Kashmir, which killed 2 civilians in Pakistan. India denied the charge.

August 24, 2013: Pakistan released 362 Indians who had been held in prison, most of them fishermen who wandered into Pakistani waters over the past 2 years.

August 23, 2013: In the Pakistani capital gunmen attacked 2 religious schools, killing 9 people. The attackers were believed to be Taliban as the 2 schools were run by anti-Taliban clerics.

In eastern India (Jharkhand state) a skirmish with Maoists left 1 policeman dead.

August 22, 2013: In Karachi, Pakistan a roadside bomb killed 1 soldier and a civilian. 10 soldiers were wounded. The truck was destroyed. Another bomb was found in the area and disarmed.

August 21, 2013: A Pakistani soldier was killed on the Kashmir LoC when Indian troops responded to fire from the Pakistani side. The Pakistanis say the Indians fired first. 

 

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